What Do You Do With Old Macs?


Apple computers are well known for their long lifespans. In the late 1990s, while at UC Berkeley, vintage late-1980s Mac SE/30s powered our student newspaper, and connected to the AppleTalk network. Meanwhile at home, if I upgraded my equipment, buying a newer Mac, my old Mac would typically go to a family member, like a brother or my dad, and their previous generation machines would be similarly passed on to somebody else. But that only scales so far.

Where do you turn when your Mac has reached the end of the line?

Even worse, sometimes the Mac can go dead, and won’t make passing along any good. As my wife and I have seen older laptops go kaput, through failed logic boards, hard drive failures or the occasional drop, we’ve racked up about three or so laptops, quietly filed away and collecting dust in our closet (two iBooks and a PowerBook, I believe). Should we be harvesting them for parts, selling them on eBay as junk, or hiding them in the garbage bins in the dead of night after the hard drives are harvested? And if I do steal away the hard drives, how should I nuke my data so it isn’t stolen? With high powered magnets?

As much fun as it is to buy new computers, we all have to say goodbye sometime. How do you do it? I’m listening.


Jorge Sepúlveda

I´m a Graphic Designer so, my first computer was a Macintosh 6100/60, that i had to sell in order to buy a new Blueberry Imac 333, the first went to a nice old lady who was interested in getting to the internet, then the Imac went recently to my nephews who loved it. Then I bought an Imac Graphito who now became part of my storage Mac, I also have a Powerbook Pismo, that´s still runnig great and it´s my wife´s laptop, now i´m working with my new Macbook , but i believe that if you are not going to use it, there are a lot of schools in your neigborhood that can make a difference in child education, so please, donate to the ones who are in need. Thks

Noah Kleiman

To correct my previous statement “Apple no longer engages in corporate philanthropy”… I was recently informed that Apple does indeed engage in corporate philanthropy, but does so “proactively, quietly, and anonymously”.


Well… I have 3 vintage macs. A Centris 650, an LC III and a Mac SE (my first MAC and not going anywhere). the LC3 needs a hard drive (SCSI) but apart from that all work. I Had a power PC 2550/200 and when it died i kept the hard drive, and filled the case with fireworks.(very pretty, but that one is History.) the hard drive is IDE so i cant even put it in the LC3! I am a PC technician by trade, but i am converted! LONG LIVE THE MAC!!!!!!


While looking into baby monitor choicess (and prices) I have been interested in using a G3 iMac for video monitoring of our newborn. It seems that all it takes is iChat and a webcam. In doing this, I will benefit from having video, as opposed to just audio that comes from standard baby monitor products. After all, it will save me money, offer more, and it will let me know if there’s a blanket covering the babys face. Audio can’t do that, but an old Mac can!


I’m considering when I finally make a move to the intel machines of donating my current iBook to http://fameus.net which is a charity my uncle started. He quit his medical practice in CA and has moved to Tanzania with his wife to start a hospital. They’re planning on networking the hospital with Macs I noticed in the last e-mail from them. Wouldn’t work for those real old machines, but might work if you’ve got vaguely recent hardware (and it’s a good cause).

Eamon Ford

I’m currently setting up an old TiBook as a web server for my blog. (Since I can’t find a good free host… :P)


I’ve usually given them away, either to family or friends, and once to our kids’ high school. I do still have the second Mac I ever used, an SE/30.

Security? I just erased my important files. I knew that they weren’t going to end up in some hacker’s hands. If you couldn’t give one away, I’d just toss it in your regular garbage. No one is digging in landfills for data, yet.

That is a Mac museum you have there, sjmills. Hang on to to it!


Some of you guys are just paranoid about your old data. You’re like NSA agents or something?

Seriously why on earth is there a 7 pass wipe and a 35 pass wipe built into disk utility? It’s not like cleaning windows, it’s digital, and once the dirt is gone – it’s gone!

Matt – put your drill away. If you really wanna destroy the drive, its enough to just hit it a couple times with a hammer (while it’s powered up will be better), or you could try placing it on the local railroad track and waiting for the 08.47 express…


I just got my new Macbook a few months ago, sitting on my dresser is my old G4 iBook. My idea, is to use it as 1) a back up, or in case i am to lazy to get my Macbook from downstairs and 2) figure if there is a way that i could use it to back up my new system as a secondary backup besides burning the info on the CD. The iBook still runs, so hey, why not use it for somehting. My sister however has a lime grean clamshell in a box. I ask her why doesn’t she donate or something, and she says, ‘are you nuts? that’s my fisrt ever laptop!!’


My 3.5 year rocks out to “Bruce” (Springsteen covering Seeger and plays her two Dora games. She lover her Orange iMac!


One day they’ll get dug out and it’ll be like Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” music video…

Heh, great reference! Don’t trip on the Centris 650 in a plastic bag buried in the dirt.

Stephen Paul

Hm… There is a certain Mac, my very first, that I don’t think I could ever let go of. If it’s logic board dies, I’ll just have to get it a new one, and the same with any other part. My whole family has a serious emotional attachment to this Mac. (It’s an iMac G4 — One of the flat panel ones)

I’ve only actually gotten rid of one Mac, and it was a Mac that we couldn’t use because we no longer had space for it in our house… It went to a computerless friend, and I didn’t worry about it because we never touched it for anything important, it was mainly just used as a web browsing workstation for the little kids in my family…

I don’t think I’ll ever feel secure with just reformatting a drive though, I’d have to salvage it for use in an enclosure.


I’ve started using my local Freecycle to get rid of older equipment in my home office (I recently given away a Yikes G4 and a non-functioning iBook, and will posting soon a beige G3/300.) I’ve found Freecycle to be a great way to pass on equipment that I don’t have a use for anymore, but don’t want to go the eBay route with.


My Performa 6416 with it’s 650 MB hard drive was collecting dust and taking up space so I had the hard drive copied to a CD and a friend is taking the computer off of my hands to put in a collection that he’s putting together.

Noah Kleiman

Considering that Apple Computer no longer engages in corporate philanthropy (it’s true, they even have a special phone number dedicated to telling nonprofit agencies that they won’t help them, and a special webpage telling nonprofits to write grants to buy Apple computers !) donating your old macintosh to a school or other nonprofit organization is a good idea. Keep in mind though, if your old macintosh is obsolete, chances are it will be recycled.

I run a nonprofit music recording studio for teens, and nearly all of our music computers (all macs of course) are donated used machines.

Eric Schwarz

I ended up with quite a few vintage Macs thanks to various friends and university sales – although most have dead PRAM batteries, I’ve stacked ’em up in our attic and covered them. One day they’ll get dug out and it’ll be like Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” music video…

As for the newer Macs, I’m still using my iBook G3 as the “portable”, although it’s destined to become an iTunes jukebox and my Mac mini (G4) is going to become a DVR/smarter Apple TV once I decided to upgrade…


A few have gone to the family members, even the original iMac is still in use.

All the others I’ve sold, at least before the intel-era the machines kept their value suprisingly well and I’ve never hard any difficulties finding a buyer. However that does require that update the machine at the right time when the old machine still has some appeal left.


In the past I’ve found that Mac’s have had a very high resale value, especially compared to an PC equivilent, which is nice.

However, I still wish I had my old Mac so I could chuck it in the front row and use it as an iTunes / The Filter box.

Matt Hoult

I tend to pass my Macs on and have not as yet had a situation where the Mac was unusable enough to do so. If that were ever to happen I would harvest it for parts, but then I’m a Mac technician.

When I pass them on to friends and family right now I generally just use Disk Utility to zero the drive a few times and then install a clean OS and set up a couple of accounts: a master admin account for troubleshooting, an Apple Remote Desktop account (for VLC troubleshooting) and a test account just in case. I like to help them get on their way and make my life easier when they need help.

If I do sell one then it’s simple; harvest the HD, stick in a new one and return to factory settings. What to do with the old drive? Well I don’t have any use for it and while there wouldn’t be financial data or anything of any worth on it I do like to be thorough and that’s where my trusty drill comes in.


After a few years of “collecting” old Macs, I finally gave up. I now eBay or Craigslist my old machine, then buy another one. I find that I use the tertiary ones so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to devote the space, electricity, and time to keep them running.

That would probably change if there were more than two of us, and if I lived in something larger than a one bedroom apartment.


I can’t seem to let go of old Macs. When I get a new one, all in-use Macs are shuffled down. That way the one in the studio is always the 2nd fastest Mac in the house. So the stash of unused Macs keeps growing; SE, IIci, 8500, PB 160C, G3, PB G3.

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